Diana, Princess of Wales, Audrey Hepburn and Kate Middleton


The women of Princess throughout history

Giving a vessel a godmother is a maritime tradition dating back to the 18th century. We look at some of the women who have held this important title for Princess

Updated July 2020

By Sophie Goddard

What do Audrey Hepburn, the Duchess of Cambridge and astronauts from the NASA space programme have in common? No, this isn’t the start of a cheesy joke… The answer is, they have all, at one point in time, been named as prestigious ‘godmothers’ of Princess Cruises vessels. Hepburn was the first in a long line of actresses to be given the role in 1989 on Star Princess, with the Duchess of Cambridge chosen in 2013 for Royal Princess. Last year saw an exciting development, with pioneering women from the U.S. Space Programme handed the mantle for the very first time. At the official Dedication Ceremony (with a fitting theme of ‘Reach for the Sky’) Captain Kathryn ‘Kay’ Hire and engineer Poppy Northcutt from NASA were named as godmothers for the newest Princess Cruises ship, Sky Princess, celebrating their incredible scientific achievements.

“As we celebrate our newest, most technologically advanced ship, we also applaud the ground-breaking women of the U.S. Space Programme. Our godmothers, Captain Kay Hire and Poppy Northcutt remind us all of what we can achieve when we reach for the sky.”

Princess President Jan Swartz

The act of giving a vessel its own godmother is actually an ancient maritime tradition, dating back to the 18th century. Originally ships were given both a godmother and godfather, though the role now mainly features women. Queen Elizabeth II’s 1969 christening of Queen Elizabeth 2 (AKA the QE2) saw her become the first royal to take over the tradition and while there are no official rules or guidance on eligibility, Hire and Northcutt’s long-standing achievements saw them marked as worthy front-runners. The role, while never officially defined, is said to encompass officiating inaugural ceremonies and naming the vessel, as well as bestowing blessings upon the ship and all those travelling with her. We take a journey through history to look at some of the notable women who have held this important honour...

Diana, Princess of Wales

Princess Diana at Princess godmother ceremony


Date: 15th November, 1984

Ship: The original Royal Princess

Location: Southampton

Wearing a chic Jasper Conran suit and red beret, Diana delighted crowds as she christened the original Royal Princess back in the ’80s. In service until April 2005, Royal Princess left the fleet to become Artemis (and later, Artania) and, at the time, was the most expensive passenger ship ever built.

Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn at Princess Godmother ceremony


Date: 23rd March, 1989

Ship: The original Star Princess

Location: Ft. Lauderdale

A fitting choice to christen the aptly named Star Princess, Hepburn was the first actress to ever become a ship’s godmother. Wearing a nautical-inspired outfit, after the naming ceremony she stepped onboard for its maiden voyage to the Caribbean.

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher attending Godmother ceremony


Date: 8th August, 1991

Ship: The original Regal Princess

Location: New York

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher christened the original Regal Princess, before her name changed to Pacific Dawn when she left the fleet in 2007.

Olivia de Havilland

Olivia de Havilland at Princess Godmother Ceremony

Getty Images

Date: 29th Sept, 1998

Ship: Grand Princess

Location: New York

Who better to add a splash of glamour to the then-biggest ship in the fleet than a Hollywood actress? Havilland did the honours at Pier 88 in New York City. At the time, Grand Princess was best in class.

Joanna Lumley

Joanna Lumley attending Princess godmother ceremony

Getty Images

Date: 26th May, 2005

Ship: Sea Princess

Location: Southampton

While Lady Caroline McPhail (wife of former P&O Managing Director Sir Bruce McPhail) originally christened Sea Princess, when Princess reaquired the ship in 2005, Lumley was asked to step in, smashing an impressively sized bottle of Bollinger against the vessel.

Lorraine Arzt, Princess’ most-travelled passenger

Lorraine Artz, Princess most' travelled passenger

Jack Glenn

Date: 14th June, 2007

Ship: Royal Princess

Location: Portofino

Having travelled with Princess for almost 5,000 days (which equates to nearly 14 years at sea), Arzt was Princess’ most loyal guest at the time, often travelling with her husband, until he passed away in 2002. When she returned to cruising, she was thrilled when crew members would sit with her so she never felt alone.

The Duchess of Cambridge

Kate Middleton at the godmother ceremony of Royal Princess


Date: 13th June, 2013

Ship: Royal Princess

Location: Southampton

Smashing a £1,250 Nebuchadnezzar of Moët et Chandon against the hull was the Duchess’ first time on a cruise ship, and her last formal engagement before giving birth to Prince George.

Captain Kay Hire and Poppy Northcutt

Sky Princess Godmother Naming Ceremony


Date: 7th December, 2019

Ship: Sky Princess

Location: Ft. Lauderdale

Captain Kathryn ‘Kay’ Hire and engineer Poppy Northcutt from NASA were named godmothers for the most recent Princess ship, Sky Princess, to recognise their incredible scientific achievements.

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About the Author

Sophie Goddard

Sophie Goddard

Sophie is a freelance journalist who has worked at magazines including Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Grazia, writing about everything from health to pop culture and travel. Next on Sophie's travel hit-list is Dominica, where she plans on enjoying a spot of horseback riding and whale-watching, as well as testing out plenty of local rum!